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In Please, his debut novel, Peter Darbyshire exposes the amoral lives of urban twentysomethings, soulless casualties of the consumer age who are disconnected from the conventions of the outside world. The book's chapters read more like linked short stories as the unnamed young narrator wanders through a series of misadventures. From stumbling into a religious sex cult meeting to helping a homeless man to please a pretty girl, he approaches each episode with an aimless innocence. He perpetually seeks employment or, better yet, easy money, and at one point he finds work as an extra in educational films. When a staged accident goes horribly wrong, the narrator offers to drive an apparent heart attack victim, Eden, to the hospital for $100. Attempting later to collect the money on another movie set, he finds Eden has just accidentally set an actor on fire. Unmoved, the narrator insists on accompanying Eden to a cash machine on his way to driving the injured man to the hospital.
Credit Derbyshire for refusing to give his hero the moral high ground. The hero himself is a dysfunctional member of his bleak community, motivated by morbid curiosity and frayed survival instincts. He's also haunted by the memory of his ex-wife, Rachel, an equally lost wanderer who enters and exits his life with the unsettling randomness that drives all of the events in this book. Though it occasionally strays into the fantastic, Please is a stunning achievement for a first-time writer. Readers can only hope that Darbyshire's talent has just begun to surface. --Moe Berg
The nameless narrator of this fine debut novel is as luckless as he is bighearted. Over a few short chapters, he gets hooked up with a group of surly sexual fetishists and a minivan-driving drug dealer, learns that his girlfriend is a phone-sex operator, and is propositioned by a man who mistakes him for a male prostitute. The characters whom the narrator encounters are uniformly weirdos and losers, the struggling and the sullen; nevertheless, this is a very funny book. Darbyshire's narrator is frequently unemployed, but he is always running into someone willing to pay him for the oddest of odd jobs: when he is not disposing of dead cows, he is making a few bucks by helping a small-time criminal or serving as an "injured" patient for a local hospital's disaster drills. Although Please is a fully realized novel, its individual chapters could stand alone as strange but moving short stories. Darbyshire plumbs the murky regions of the soul in a novel of dark brilliance. Kevin Canfield
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